Jan 27, 2021







SUBJECTS: Labor leadership; Federal Election; coronavirus pandemic; Labor’s policy agenda; Australia Day; Shadow Cabinet reshuffle; ambition for a Labor Government.


LAURA TINGLE, HOST: Anthony Albanese, thanks for joining us.




TINGLE: You often ask the question, ‘What’s the point of this Government?’ What I would like to ask you is, what’s the point of the Albanese Opposition?


ALBANESE: One, to hold the Government to account. To make sure, for example, during COVID, that the Government acted in the national interest. So, we advanced issues like the need for wage subsidies, the need to increase unemployment benefits, the need for mental health care to be rolled out. The need to have a plan for post-pandemic as well as put forward alternatives, which we’ve been doing on issues like child care reform, on a Future Made in Australia, making sure that we have advanced manufacturing and jobs and a plan to lift wages, lift productivity and to boost the economy after the recovery.


TINGLE: But do you really think issues like child care, important as they are, are of themselves important enough to get people to change their vote in such times of uncertainty?


ALBANESE: Well, what it’s symbolic of is a plan for this economy. This Government doesn’t have any reform plan. They don’t have an economic reform agenda.


TINGLE: Can you name an issue that Labor has really owned while you’ve been Leader or where your position is crystal clear?


ALBANESE: Child care.


TINGLE: That’s it?


ALBANESE: Well, I can name many of them, but that’s one. Wage subsidies. It was Labor that was arguing for wage subsidies to see us through the pandemic. And when we first suggested it, Scott Morrison said that such an idea was dangerous. Increasing Newstart is another reform. A Future Made in Australia, making sure that we build trains and other manufacturing capacity here. We’ve outlined a policy for Jobs and Skills Australia. Now, Infrastructure Australia I created the last time we were in Government, as the Minister. That transformed the way that infrastructure investment happens in this country. Now, the creation of Jobs and Skills Australia, to do for the labour market what Infrastructure Australia has done for the capital market, if you like, is a significant reform.


TINGLE: Are words like ‘productivity’, ‘reforms to Infrastructure Australia’, ‘Skills Australia’, the sort of language that will cut through to voters?


ALBANESE: What will cut through is a plan for more jobs, a plan for more secure work, a plan for cheaper childcare, a plan for lowering emissions and dealing with the climate and a plan for recognising First Nations people. There’ll be more in the coming weeks.


TINGLE: Let’s talk about Anthony Albanese. I’ve been quite shocked in the last couple of days by the extent of disappointment and despair felt by your colleagues about Labor’s position and yours. They are deeply pessimistic that you can lead them to victory. How is it that you are confronting speculation about your leadership after such a short time?


ALBANESE: My leadership is secure. I’ll continue to advance a progressive agenda for Labor. Last year was a tough year for everyone, 2020. But when you look at the position we are in, going into what may well be an election year at the end of the year, in terms of all the polling, we’re very competitive. Most importantly, we’ll focus on the people who we need to vote for us rather than focus on ourselves.


TINGLE: Have you let Scott Morrison get away from you? His net approval rating compared to where it was after the bushfires last year has rocketed and there’s now a big gap between the two of you.


ALBANESE: No, not at all. One of the things we’ve seen is that because people during the pandemic have wanted leaders to succeed, of course that has led to an increase in their approval. Because if they don’t succeed, then people will be concerned about their health and about their jobs and their standard of living. What the next election will be about is about who has a better plan for the future to deliver a stronger economy, a fairer society and deal with challenges such as climate change. That’s what the next election will be about. And I believe we’ll be very strongly positioned for it.


TINGLE: Even some of your closest supporters are frustrated that you don’t take advice. Did you consult, for example, on your idea for a referendum for constitutional recognition being held on 26 January?


ALBANESE: Yes, indeed. I consulted way back in 2018.


TINGLE: They seem to think that it was a thought bubble, captain’s pick.


ALBANESE: No, it was put forward in 2018. And it was not put forward as policy, it was put forward as a constructive idea. How do we have a debate? It was in the context of people like Noel Pearson has put forward the idea of having two days, January 25 and then January 26. How do we stop having, every January 26, the same debate each year, but with more and more division? Now, I don’t pretend to have the precise solution and that there’s a simple solution to it.


TINGLE: People who really want you to succeed despair the mistrust within the Caucus is now back at the levels it was when you famously appealed to your colleagues to stop the internal warfare and instead fight Tories. Is that your problem or is it something for others to solve?


ALBANESE: Well, I just don’t think that’s right. I don’t think that’s a right characterisation.


TINGLE: I’m hearing it from a lot of people from the Caucus, and not the usual suspects.


ALBANESE: I don’t think that’s the correct characterisation. I think that 2020 was a difficult year for the entire nation. Parliament wasn’t sitting for most of it. We had people not gathering in the usual way. Anyone who thinks that the current circumstance is like it was in 2013, that you refer to, wasn’t there in 2013.


TINGLE: You’re proceeding with a frontbench reshuffle. What do you hope to achieve with this?


ALBANESE: What I hope to achieve is to show what Labor’s priorities are. It’ll be announced at the weekend and I’m talking through with colleagues and I’m sure that it will achieve a stronger team going forward with the right people in the right jobs. And it will be, I think, a positive move.


TINGLE: Somebody made the observation to me that the problem for you is that, in finally defeating Bill Shorten and becoming Opposition Leader, you’ve achieved your lifetime ambition and that you seem to lack that burning desire to actually become Prime Minister. That was from a Labor person.


ALBANESE: No, my ambition is for Labor to be in Government. My ambition has never been about myself, it’s about what Labor Governments can achieve for the sort of people that I grew up with, the sort of people who need Labor Governments. For some people, who, in Government, it is a bit of an academic exercise, it’s something of interest to them. For the people who really need a Labor Government, it makes a difference. And I know, growing up, I know the difference that it made to my mum’s life, to her pension, to whether she got the healthcare that she needed. It made an enormous difference. It wasn’t an academic exercise. And for millions of Australians, that’s the case today. They need a Labor Government, which is why that should be our only focus. Anything else is self-indulgent. They deserve for us to acknowledge the privileged position that we’re in and that we have a responsibility to do our best for them.


TINGLE: Thanks for talking to us tonight.


ALBANESE: Thanks Laura.